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Summary

Geopressure (or overpressure) presents significant risks to

drilling if not predicted accurately. To better understand

mechanisms of abnormal fluid pressure, I choose an

inclusion-based micromechanical model by using the

concept of eigenstrain and characterize the microstructure

of rocks as a product of the compaction processes. Analysis

and numerical tests demonstrate that fluid pressure and

effective velocities are functions of the microstructure (e.g.,

shape of inclusions) and the stress state of the rock, which

suggests the possibility of linking pressure and velocities to

geological parameters.

Introduction

Abnormal pore pressure has become an increasingly

important issue in exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and

often results in drilling hazards such as kicks, mud

volcanoes, wellbore instability, and lost circulation (Sayers,

2006). Commonly used pressure prediction approaches

such as Eatons (1975) and Bowers (1995) methods

generally focus on building empirical relationship between

observed geophysical properties (e.g., velocity) and pore

pressure, which, although work well for many applications,

may also cause large errors in the prediction due to high

uncertainty in the estimate of velocities and the lack of

understanding of the relationship between geophysical

properties and microstructural features of the rocks.

In this study, I use a micromechanical pore pressure

prediction model by representing rocks as matrix with

spheroidal inclusions (pores and cracks). By introducing

the concept of eigenstrain, I represent fluid pressure

through confining stress and residue pressure, properties of

rock components (minerals and fluids), as well as the

characteristics of the microstructure of the rock (e.g., the

shape and alignment of inclusions). Effective physical

properties such as velocity are then calculated using

differential effective medium theory.

The proposed method allows a study of the behavior of

effective properties in response to different in-situ rock

properties such as fluid pressure, porosity, and crack

density. It also allows an understanding of various

mechanisms related to geopressure (e.g., Zoback, 2007).

For example, during normal compaction process, rocks

behave as a drained (a.k.a. open) system where fluid is

expelled at the same time as formation porosity is reduced

and cracks are closed. This results in an increase of velocity

as a function of effective stress. When the formation

permeability becomes too low to maintain the free fluid

flow into and out of the system, compaction disequilibrium

2014 SEG

SEG Denver 2014 Annual Meeting

undrained (a.k.a. closed) system and fluid pressure starts to

build up above the hydrostatic pressure. During the thermal

expansion or maturation process, microcracks may be

generated in response to elevated fluid pressures. The

presence of microcracks can have pronounced effects on

velocity and anisotropy, thus providing potentially useful

attributes for estimating abnormal pressure zones.

Hereafter the discussion is limited to spheroidal inclusions,

whose shape can be characterized with the aspect ratio ,

ratio of the semi minor axis to the semi major axis.

Theory of micro-mechanical model

From a micromechanical point of view, pores and cracks

that contain fluids can be considered as inclusions

imbedded in the solid background of rocks. An inclusion

differs from its background in that 1) fluid and solid have

different physical properties (i.e., heterogeneity), and 2)

extra fluid pressure (e.g., due to thermal expansion of fluids

or hydrocarbon generation) may develop in inclusions.

According to Eshelby (1957), the extra pressure (denoted

as residue pressure), or its general form if inclusion

material is a solid (denoted as residue stress), can be

represented through the eigenstrain, which usually refers to

strain remaining in a body when the body is selfequilibrated. Indeed, heterogeneity problem can also be

represented as an equivalent eigenstrain problem (e.g., Xu,

1998). Here I follow the equivalent inclusion method

introduced by Mura (1987) to treat both heterogeneity and

residue fluid pressure as an eigenstrain problem and

calculate stress and strain of an inclusion in an extended

background with applied stress

at infinity (Figure 1).

compliance being ), containing an infinitesimal spheroidal

inclusion with different stiffness

(its compliance being

) and residue stress . For fluids, the term residue stress

is interchangeable with residue pressure and can be

DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1190/segam2014-0895.1

Page 2793

expressed as

residue pressure and

residue strain

as

, where

is the magnitude of

is a unit tensor, and is linked to

.

(1)

Due to the presence of heterogeneity and residue stress, the

stress field of the inclusion deviates from the background

stress and can be expressed as (Mura, 1987):

(

)

(

),

(2)

where and

are, respectively, the perturbation of stress

and strain from the background (or applied) stress

and

strain , and the applied stress has

. Parameter

is the eigenstrain that is related to the strain perturbation

through the Eshelby tensor (Eshelby, 1957) as:

(

)

,

(3)

where a new eigenstrain is introduced as

.

Substituting equation 3 into equation 2 yields

[ (

)] (

).

(4)

Fluid pressure

Consider a closed inclusion where fluid is trapped, the

strain deformation of the inclusion can be given as

,

(5)

where

is the stress of the inclusion material, which is

also called fluid pressure if the inclusion is filled with fluid.

In such a case,

is given as

(

) ,

where

denotes the magnitude of the total fluid pressure

in the inclusion. Solving equations 4-5 yields

,

(6)

where

(

) (

),

(

)

, and

[ (

)] . Note the difference between the stress

of inclusion material

and residue pressure

. Here

has the contribution from both applied stress and residue

pressure. Also note that tensors , , , and depend on

the strength of the background material and geometry of

the inclusions such as the shape of pores and cracks.

Tensors and also depend on fluid properties.

Effective elasticity

After calculating the average stress and strain of the

system, I write the effective compliance as a function of

the applied stress and residue pressure:

(

)(

),

(7)

where

and

denotes, respectively, the compliance of

the background material and the fluid. Parameter denotes

the porosity and

is the differential stress (or

commonly referred to as effective stress). It is clear that

if

. Note equation 7 was derived for dilute

concentration of inclusions where the interaction among

inclusions is ignored. To account for higher volume

concentration of pores and cracks, modeling schemes such

as differential effective medium (DEM) can be used.

Equation 7 suggests that effective velocity can be expressed

2014 SEG

SEG Denver 2014 Annual Meeting

generated in the inclusions. It also suggests that the vertical

effective stress alone (e.g., Bowers, 1995) may not be

sufficient to determine the effective elastic properties of

rocks for regions where tectonic forces become prominent.

In a special case where

is hydrostatic confining pressure

(i.e.,

(

) where

is the magnitude of

the confining stress), equation 7 can be simplified as

),

(

)(

(8)

where

is the normalized differential stress

and

is pore fluid pressure. Quantity

is the

residue pressure normalized by confining pressure, and

is the combination of

several components of tensor . As shown in equation 8,

the effective compliance reduces with the increase of the

normalized differential stress. Hence, as the confining

pressure increases, the effective velocities increase.

Interpretation of fluid pressure

Equation 6 suggests that fluid pressure is a function of the

microstructure and medium properties of rocks, as well as

applied stress and residue pressure. If residue pressure is

absent (

), it reduces to

, which is

consistent with pore pressure obtained by Xu (1998).

According to equation 6, the differential stress can be

written as

(

)

,

(9)

where the first term, (

) , is caused by the

heterogeneity of the medium, i.e., due to the difference

between

and . For example, if the inclusion material

has the same properties as the background (

), this

)

gives

and hence (

. If the inclusion

material becomes extremely compliant ( ), tensor

reduces to 0 and approaches . Since in such cases the

inclusion material is too compliant to support any residue

stress (i.e.,

), the stress of inclusion material, ,

reduces to 0, making the inclusion behaving like a vacuum.

If fluid pressure deviates from hydrostatic pressure, then

abnormal pressure appears, which is also termed

overpressure when fluid pressure exceeds hydrostatic

pressure. As shown in Figure 2, hydrostatic pressure can be

given as

, where

is brine density, is

is the reference depth

where the integration starts from, e.g., the mean seal level

in an offshore exploration case. In a 1D case where the

lithostatic stress can be obtained using vertical integration

of bulk density ( ) of rocks, we have

.

as areas near salt that has irregular geometry, 1D

assumption of overburden stress can break down and hence

more sophisticated modeling of the stress field is needed.

DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1190/segam2014-0895.1

Page 2794

pressures. Here the abnormal pressure emerges at depth

and residue pressure starts to develop at depth . Hence,

starting from the reference hydrostatic pressure

(

), where

components are identical (Figure 3a), a spherical pore

(

) becomes stiffest as the fluid pressure in the pore

becomes minimum. In a uniaxial (vertical) loading process

(Figure 3b), however, a spherical pore is not necessarily

stiffest since no lateral constraints are applied to the rock.

In such a case, the fluid pressure keeps dropping for

,

albeit gradually, as the aspect ratio increases.

Although not shown here, pore fluid pressure is also

influenced by other factors such as pore orientation and the

connectivity of the pore system. For example, in a closed

pore, fluid cannot escape, thus causing pressure buildup.

Micromechanical analysis of pressure mechanisms

by heterogeneity and residue pressure, and varies with depth.

the aspect ratio (

) of a horizontally aligned

spheroidal pore in a constant solid background. A flat,

penny-shaped pore (

) is generally more compliant

than a round pore (

), thus making the pressure in a

flat pore higher than in a round pore. If

, fluid

pressure approaches the confining pressure or the

overburden stress, causing fluid pressure to be abnormally

high and drilling through this area more risky. If the

pressure buildup in a pore is higher than a critical strength

of the rock (e.g., leak-off point or fracture propagation

pressure), one would expect that new cracks or fractures

may initiate and even propagate.

proposed micromechanical model. During the early stage of

the compaction, sedimentary rocks usually contain pores

with high porosity. As sedimentation continues, increasing

overburden stress causes fluids being expelled out of the

pores and porosity reduces. If the sedimentation rate is

relatively low, or if the formation permeability is high

enough to allow free fluid flow out of the inclusion space,

the equilibrium between the pore fluid pressure and

external fluid pressure such as hydrostatic pressure is

maintained (Zhang, 2011). In such a case, the rock

undergoes normal compaction and can be treated as an

open pore system with drained boundary condition for the

fluids. The effective compliance can then be expressed as

(

) ].

[

(10)

If the sedimentation rate is relatively high or if formation

permeability becomes too low to allow free fluid flow, the

pore system starts to close and this marks the emergence of

disequilibrium compaction. For such a system containing

closed pores, the effective compliance can be written as

[

((

)

) ],

(11)

where

denotes the stiffness of the fluid in a tensorial

form. Equation 11 can also be rewritten in terms of applied

stress, as shown in equation 7 (with

set to 0).

A transition zone usually occurs where normal compaction

is giving place to disequilibrium compaction. In these

rocks, both open and closed inclusions coexist. Effective

compliance is then a combination of equations 10 and 11.

ratio

for a) confining stress

psi, and b) uniaxial

(vertical) stress

psi. Model parameters: background

km/s,

km/s,

g/cc; pore fluid

km/s,

g/cc. Here the aspect ratio is defined as

/ so that it varies over a wide range of 0.001~100.

2014 SEG

SEG Denver 2014 Annual Meeting

generate from thermal maturation of kerogen in source

rocks. This can cause a significant increase of volume of

pore fluids and results in overpressure. Alternatively,

thermal expansion of fluids can cause pressure to increase

in a closed pore. Effective compliance due to this

mechanism can be described using equation 7.

Note that the microstructure of rocks evolves with the

geological processes. For example, an exponential

DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1190/segam2014-0895.1

Page 2795

by Hart et al. (1995) to characterize the reduction of

porosity at geologic depths for normal compaction process.

Example

The method can be used to simulate several compaction

processes such as normal compaction, disequilibrium

compaction, and thermal fluid expansion. In the following

example, I use Monte-Carlo simulation to calculate

effective velocity and fluid pressure. I assume that the

rocks contain pores and cracks characterized as spheroids

with different aspect ratios. To account for the reduction of

inclusion space, I assume that porosity and crack density

generally follow exponential trends over the depth range of

5000-19000 ft. Figures 4b-d show modeling results of

effective velocity and pressure profiles. Also shown are

modeling parameters such as volume concentration (Figure

4a) and alignment (Figure 5) of pores and cracks.

(blue) and crack density (red), b) effective vertical P-wave

velocity, c) hydrostatic- (blue), fluid- (red), and overburden(black) pressures, and d) hydrostatic- (blue), fluid- (red), and

overburden- (black) pressure gradients.

where fluids are free to escape out of pores and cracks. As

sedimentation continues, crack density drops more quickly

with burial depth, which reflects the closure of some cracks

due to increased overburden pressure. As cracks close and

porosity reduces, velocity increases (Figure 4b). A

transition zone appears at 9000-11000 ft where velocity

increases significantly since rocks become stiffer as the

pore system changes from drained to undrained conditions.

2014 SEG

SEG Denver 2014 Annual Meeting

disequilibrium compaction where porosity reduces slowly

and velocity varies more gradually. Note that

disequilibrium compaction results in elevated fluid

pressure, indicating that overpressure is observed and fluid

pressure gradient is above hydrostatic pressure gradient

(Figure 4c-d). Thermal fluid expansion kicks in below

19000 ft, causing the development of residue pressure.

When fluid pressure is sufficiently high, new cracks may

initiate and propagate, resulting in significant drop of

velocity. Figure 6 shows velocity as functions of effective

stress and density for the simulated geologic processes. For

example, velocity increases with effective stress during

disequilibrium compaction (loading process) and decreases

during fluid expansion (unloading process). Numerical

simulation also suggests that the change of density during

fluid expansion is negligible, which is similar to the trend B

(unloading) discussed by Swarbrick (2012).

effective stress and density.

Conclusions

In this study, an inclusion-based micromechanical model

was used to characterize rock properties (effective velocity

and fluid pressure). The proposed method extends Xus

(1998) poroelastic model for the undrained fluid system by

accounting for residue pressures due to, e.g., thermal fluid

expansion and hydrocarbon generation. Heterogeneity due

to the presence of inclusions and residue pressure in

inclusions are treated consistently as an eigenstrain

problem, and effective elasticity of the medium is

expressed through applied stress and residue pressure.

I analyzed the microstructure of rocks under various

geological conditions and used the model to characterize

velocity and fluid pressure for various mechanisms that

have been proposed for pressure effects, e.g., normal

compaction, disequilibrium compaction, and thermal fluid

expansion. Other possible mechanisms such as clay

diagenesis are out of the scope of this work.

Acknowledgments

The author would like to thank Statoil for the permission to

publish this work. Thanks also go to (but not limited to)

Ivar Brevik, Chez Uzoh, Hege M. Nordgrd Bols, Tom

Sun, Dan Ebrom, and Cem Ozan.

DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1190/segam2014-0895.1

Page 2796

http://dx.doi.org/10.1190/segam2014-0895.1

EDITED REFERENCES

Note: This reference list is a copy-edited version of the reference list submitted by the author. Reference lists for the 2014

SEG Technical Program Expanded Abstracts have been copy edited so that references provided with the online metadata for

each paper will achieve a high degree of linking to cited sources that appear on the Web.

REFERENCES

Bowers, G. L., 1995, Pore pressure estimation from velocity data: Accounting for overpressure

mechanisms besides undercompaction: SPE Drilling and Completion, 10, no. 2, 8995.

Eaton, B. A., 1975, The equation for geopressure prediction from well logs: Presented at the Fall Meeting

of the Society of Petroleum Engineers of AIME, SPE-5544-MS.

Eshelby, I. D., 1957, The determination of the elastic field of an ellipsoidal inclusion, and related

problems: Proceedings of the Royal Society of London A, 241, no. 1226, 376396.

Hart, B. S., P. B. Flemings , and A. Deshpande, 1995, Porosity and pressure: Role of compaction

disequilibrium in the development of geopressures in a Gulf Coast Pleistocene basin: Geology, 23,

no. 1, 4548, http://dx.doi.org/10.1130/0091-7613(1995)023<0045:PAPROC>2.3.CO;2.

Mura, T., 1991, Micromechanics of defects in solids: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Sayers, C., 2006, An introduction to velocity-based pore-pressure estimation: The Leading Edge, 25,

14961500, http://dx.doi.org/10.1190/1.2405335.

Swarbrick, R., 2012, Review of pore-pressure prediction challenges in high-temperature areas: The

Leading Edge , 31, 12881294, http://dx.doi.org/10.1190/tle31111288.1.

Xu, S., 1998, Modeling the effect of fluid communication on velocities in anisotropic porous rocks:

International Journal of Solids and Structures, 35, no. 34-35, 46854707,

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S0020-7683(98)00090-0.

Zhang, J., 2013, Effective stress, porosity, velocity and abnormal pore pressure prediction accounting for

compaction disequilibrium and unloading: Marine and Petroleum Geology, 45, 211,

http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.marpetgeo.2013.04.007.

Zoback, M., 2007, Reservoir geomechanics: Cambridge University Press.

2014 SEG

SEG Denver 2014 Annual Meeting

DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1190/segam2014-0895.1

Page 2797

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